In "Call It Courage", why does Mafatu cook first?

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dymatsuoka eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Mafatu cooks first to distract himself from the deep loneliness he feels, and to satisfy his most pressing need at the moment, which is hunger.

When Matafu finally successfully makes a fire, he "settles back" and relaxes for awhile, "watch(ing) the leaping flame".  He is comforted by "the warm glow of flame...it (makes) him think of home, of food and warmth and companionship, of faces around the evening circle...and he (is) swept by a sudden wave of loneliness, a longing for the sound of his father's deep voice".  So as not to allow himself to be overwhelmed with homesickness, he "force(s) his thoughts into safer channels", busying himself with familiar tasks.  His most urgent need to fulfill is to satisfy his gnawing hunger, so he "(throws) breadfruit into the fire (where) it would stay until it (is) charred black and thoroughly cooked...next, he (lays) half a dozen...wild bananas...in the coals, covering them with wet leaves so that slowly they would steam through".  Once his dinner is cooking, he can turn to other tasks, such as making "his shelter against wind and storm" ("The Island").